Icon by Jorge MurielThe Final Solution

Background

The Final Solution of the Jewish Question was Adolf Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jews in Europe. His anti-Semitic ideas were so strong that he released his hatred by murdering them. The first step taken for this was the Wannsee Conference (1942), in which everything was planned. Hitler asked Reinhard Heydrich, an aide to Heinrich Himmler, to organize this conference.

Concentration camps were of top priority to discuss in the conference. First of all, the Nazis would trap the Jews in ghettos; then they were taken to death camps. Auschwitz, located in southern Poland, was the main and most important concentration and extermination camp. About 1 to 3 million people were killed here, which is about one-third of all the Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Occupants of the Warsaw ghetto being forced out during the
final liquidation by the SS.
Photo from the National Archives.


The other important concentration camp was Treblinka, located 80 km from Warsaw, Poland. First, it was established as a slave labor camp in 1941, then, in 1942, it became a death camp. From July to September of 1942, 300,000 Jews had been taken from Warsaw to Treblinka. By May of 1943, the entire population of Warsaw had been transported to Treblinka and other camps. Two years later, by July 11, 1945, 800,000 Jews had been murdered in Treblinka, including men, women, and children.

There were many different ways in which the Nazis massacred the people; such as, crematoriums, electrocution, phenol injections, flame-throwers, hand grenades, and gas chambers-- hydrocyanic gas, carbon monoxide gas. The most common ones were the crematoriums and the gas chambers.

Seemingly, since the moment Hitler decided to become a dictator, the Final Solution was already in his mind. In the book Hitler and the Final Solution, by Gerald Fleming, there is a quote of Hitler that says: "Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews" (p. 17). He eventually achieved his goal, killing 6 million Jews.

Wannsee Protocol

It was time to discuss the Final Solution, and in Berlin on January 20, 1942, the following officials gathered:

Gauleiter Dr. Meyer
(Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories)
Reichsamtleiter Dr. Leibbrandt SS-Oberführer Klopfer
(Party Chancellery)
Secretary of State Dr. Stuckart Ministerialdirektor Kritzinger
(Reich Minister for the Interior) (Reich Chancellory)
Secretary of State Neumann
(Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan)
SS-Gruppenführer Hofmann
(Race and Settlement Main Office)
Secratary of State Dr. Freisler
(Reich Ministry of Justice)
SS-Gruppenführer Muller
SS-Obersturmbannführer Eichmann

(Reich Main Security Office)
Secretary of State Dr. Buhler
(Office of Government)
SS-Oberführer Dr. Schongarth
(Foreign Office)
Under Secretary of State Dr. Luther
SS-Sturmbannführer Dr. Lange
(Security Police and SD)

The conference had begun with Chief of Security police and the SD, SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich, reporting that the Reich Marshal had appointed him delegate, of the preparations for the Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe. He claimed that the meeting had been called to clarify fundamental questions on how to carry out the ordeal. The Reich Marshal had requested a draft to be sent to him concerning organizational, factual, and material interests in relation to the Final Solution of the Jews in Europe. The layout of essential points began:

a) Expulsion of the Jews from every sphere of life of the German people.

b) Expulsion of the Jews from the living space of the German people.

The initial present solution was deemed as: the acceleration of the emigration of the Jews from the Reich territory. This lead to the Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration, set up in January, 1939, on the order of the Reich Marshal, and the Chief of Security Police and SD was entrusted with the management. This institutions' most important tasks consisted of:

a) To make all necessary arrangements for the preparations, to begin the emigration of the Jews.

b) To ensure the direct flow of emigration.

c) To speed up the procedure of emigration in each individual case.

This was the only way to cleanse the Reich territory of the Jews by legal means.
National Archives Photo, Washington, D.C.

An emaciated concentration camp survivor in a candid photo by
an American soldier.
Photo from the National Archives.


This "first solution" would cause much chaos, so the next solution was the evacuation of the Jews to the East, provided that the Führer gives the appropriate approval in advance. It was calculated that 11 million Jews would be involved in the Final Solution of the European Jewish Question. It was decided that the Jews would be allocated for appropriate labor in the East. Able-bodied Jews, separated according to sex, would be taken in large work columns to these areas of work, being that a large portion would be eliminated by natural causes. At this point the Chief of Security Police and SD, had laid a solution to the problem of "mixed" marriages. A certain code was developed to distinguished the Jews who were not 100% Jewish at birth. Based on this code, "mixed" Jews were separated into two categories:

1) Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree.

2) Persons of Mixed Blood of the Second Degree.

These were based on the status of their parents. The treatment of the "mixed" Jews was based on this code. It was agreed upon, that the Jews would be separated into different Ghettos based on sex and age. From the Ghetto they would be evacuated to the East. The evacuations would soon haunt millions of Jews.

The committee soon began to arrive to many conclusions. They agreed that the Nuremberg Laws should provide a certain foundation, for the actions that are portrayed in the Final Solution. The Jews would have to be removed as quickly as possible from the territory of the General Government, since the Jews posed extreme danger to the economic structure of the country through black-market dealings. They agreed that a majority of the Jews were unfit to work, and would have to be dealt with. It was stated that the General Government would support the Chief of Secretary Police and the SD in the efforts to solve the Jewish Question. In the end it was decided that certain preparatory activities for the Final Solution should be carried out immediately in the territories in question, in which the process of alarming the populace must be avoided!

The meeting had ended, but the Final Solution had just begun.

Further Information:

Wannsee Protocol January 20, 1942; Translation

Joseph Goebbels' Diaries

Much can be learned of the anti-Semitism present in Germany, during the reign of the Nazi party, from a man by the name of Joseph Goebbels. His diaries are very important in the understanding of Adolph Hitler's plan to establish a superior "Aryan Race." It is relevant to know that the liquidation of the Jews, was in the mind of Hitler and his affiliates before it was materially enacted. Hitler had one plan in mind, and that was total annihilation of the Jews. The Jews were not thought of as human beings, but rather as a component that was standing in the way of Hitler's "supreme race." Joseph Goebels knew of Hitler's plans, and in his diaries he documented much of what was though of the Jews at the time. Goebbels had access to Adolph Hitler's thoughts and plans to carry out the total extermination of the Jews. One cannot be impacted by the Diaries, unless seen by your own eyes. These documents are helpful in understanding the fate of the Jewish people.

Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels


The following are some of the excerpts from Lochner, Louis, Ed., trans., The Goebbels Diaries, Doubleday & Company, New York, 1948.

February 5, 1942

The Jewish question is again giving us a headache; this time, however, not because we have gone to far, but because we are not going far enough.

February 14, 1942

The Jews have deserved the catastrophe that has now overtaken them. Their destruction will go hand in hand with the destruction of our enemies. We must hasten this process with cold ruthlessness.

March 6, 1942

I am of the opinion that the greater the number of Jews liquidated, the more consolidated will the situation in Europe be after this war.

March 16, 1942

It has therefore proven necessary once again to shoot more Jews.

April 29, 1942

Tens of thousands of them are liquidated.

December 14, 1942

Jewry must pay for its crime just as our Führer prophesied in his speech in the Reichstag; namely, by the wiping out of the Jewish race in Europe and possibly in the entire world.

These are just a few of the powerful excerpts taken from Joseph Goebbels' Diaries. It is clearly seen that the liquidation of the Jews was planned by the Führer. This was all part of the Final Solution, in which was drawn up by the Wannsee Protocol. Adolph Hitler, as can be seen above, was determined to get rid of the "inferior" Jewish people. Joseph Goebbels was one of the many Germans who felt the same way about the Jews. Goebbels documented his ideas and that of Hitler's plan. Hitler would eventually go on, and begin exterminating the Jews. He would set up Jewish "ghettos," labor concentration camps, and extermination camps. In the end, millions of Jews were murdered. There is one final excerpt from the Goebbels' Diaries, which could lead to a better understanding of Hitler's attempt at total annihilation of the Jews, world wide; and could only conclude the main goal of the Final Solution.

May 13, 1943

There is therefore no other recourse left for modern nations except to exterminate the Jews...

Ovens where the remains of Nazi victims were cremated. Photo from the National Archives.


Further Information:

Joseph Goebbels Diaries Excerpts, 1942-43.

Auschwitz

Structure: Auschwitz I, II, and III, all have sub-camps, especially Auschwitz II. These camps were separated by electrically charged fences.

1. Auschwitz II was Birkenau and III was Monowitz. Birkenau was broken up into BI, BIa, BIb, BIIc, BIId, BIIe, BIIf, BIII.(Gutman, 110)

2. Birkenau is where the crematorium and the gas chambers were.

3. In the course of time, another forty-five camps, sub-units, were built.

Process: The trains stopped at the rampa ( railway platform) in Birkenau.

a. The prisoners had to leave all their personal belongings and were made to form two lines, men and women separately.

b. These lines advanced towards an SS officer who would conduct the selection, directing people either to one side, for the gas chambers, or the other, which meant designation for forced labor. (Gutman, 109)

c. Those who were sent to the gas chambers were killed the same day and their corpses were burned in the crematoriums or, if there were too many for the crematorium to process, they were burned in an open surface.

d. Victims not sent to the gas chambers were sent to the "quarantine." First, they went to the camps sauna.

e. Inside the quarantine their hair was shortened and property removed. The average life expectancy of the prisoners who went to labor camps was only a few months.

f. They had dreaded roll calls that would last for hours. If anyone fainted or fell down, they had to rise quickly or they would be shot.(Gutman, 109)

Allied aerial reconnaissance photograph of the Auschwitz concentration camp
showing Auschwitz II.
Photo from the National Archives, courtesy of USHMM Archives.


4. In July 1942, Himmler proposed instituting sterilization of Jewish women at Auschwitz.

5. Dr. Carl Clauberg and Joseph Mengele conducted horrifying experiments on infants and young twins. Mengele was nicknamed the "Angel of Death."(Gutman, 112)

Work Cited

Gutman, Israel, Ed. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1990.

The Memories of Rudolf Hess

In his memoirs he explained how Auschwitz became a killing center.

"In the summer of 1942, I cannot remember the exact date, I was summoned to the Reichsführer SS, directly by the adjutants office. Contrary to his usual custom, Himmler received me without his adjutant present."

"The Führer has ordered that the Jewish Question be solved once and for all, and that we, the SS, are to implement that order. The existing extermination camps in the East are not in a good position to carry out the large actions that are anticipated. I have therefore ordered Auschwitz for this purpose, because the area can be isolated and camouflaged."

We discussed the ways and means of effecting extermination. This could be done by gassing, since it would have been absolutely impossible to dispose by shooting of the large numbers of people that were expected, and it would have placed too heavy burdened on the SS men who had to carry out; especially of the women and the children among the victims.

(Rudolf Hess, pp. 183-184)

Auschwitz Final Statistics (deaths)

- 1.5 million Jews were killed

- 16,000 Soviet Prisoners of war

- 1.6 million total at Birkenau

Treblinka

Structure: The camp was established as part of Action Reinhard. Work on the camp began in late May and early June of 1941, and was completed on July 22, 1942.

1. In addition to the camp structure and the gas chambers was a railroad track, leading from the camp to the nearby railway station, that was constructed. Huge pits were dug so that within camp grounds there could be massive graves.

2. The camp resembled the SOBiBOR camp. It was rectangular, 1312 feet wide and 1968 feet long.

3. Two barbed-wire fences surrounded the camp. They had 26 feet Watchtowers, one at every end.

4. The camp was divided into three areas: the living area, the reception area, and the extermination area.

5. The living area contained housing for the Germans and Ukrainians who worked there, as well as camp officers, the clinic, storerooms, and workshops.

6. The reception area was were the prisoners had to remove their cloths.

7. The extermination area was 656by 820 feet. It was completely fenced, separated from the rest of the camp.(Gutman, 1483)

Process: An incoming train, generally consisted of fifty to sixty cars (6,000-7,000 people) came to Treblinka .

a. Twenty cars were brought in at a time.

b. The doors would open and the SS officers would yell at them.

c. They would tell the prisoners about it being a transit camp. When they needed to take a shower, in the bathrooms instead of water, they used carbon monoxide.

d. Before the prisoners had to undress, they had to leave all their valuables with the SS officers.

e. It initially took three to four hours to liquidate all the people in the cars. As they gained experience, it took them one to two hours. (Gutman)

Treblinka Final Statistics (deaths)

- From the Bialystok district:107,000

- 7,000 from Slokia

- 8,000 from Theresienstsdt between October 3-25, 1942.

- 4,000 from Thrace, Greece.

- 7,000 from Macedonia, Yugoslavia.

- A total of 29,000 Jews from other countries except Poland.

- A total of 870,000 had bee murdered there.

Holocaust Deaths Statistics

The following statistics show Jewish deaths in the Holocaust.

a) Jewish Population, September, 1939.

b) Number of Jews Murdered.

c) Percentage of Jews Murdered.

1. Poland
a) 3,300,000
b) 2,800,000
c) 85%

2. USSR (occupied territories)
a) 2,100,000
b) 1,500,000
c) 71.4%

3. Romania
a) 850,000
b) 425,000
c) 50%

4. Hungary
a) 404,000
b) 200,000
c) 49.5%

5. Czechoslovakia
a) 315,000
b) 260,000
c) 82.5%

6. France
a) 300,000
b) 90,000
c) 30%

7. Germany
a) 210,000
b) 171,000
c) 81%

8. Lithuania
a) 150,000
b) 135,000
c) 90%

9. Holland
a) 150,000
b) 90,000
c) 60%

 

10. Latvia
a) 95,000
b) 85,000
c) 89.5%

11. Belgium
a) 90,000
b) 40,000
c) 44.4%

12. Greece
a) 75,000
b) 65,000
c) 80%

13. Yugoslavia
a) 75,000
b) 55,000
c) 73.3%

14. Austria
a) 60,000
b) 40,000
c) 66.6%

15. Italy
a) 57,000
b) 15,000
c) 26.3%

16. Bulgaria
a) 50,000
b) 7,000
c) 14%

17. Others
a) 20,000
b) 6,000
c) 30%

18. Totals
a) 8,301,000
b) 5,978,000
c) 72%

 

Source Cited

Landau, The Nazi Holocaust, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1994.
These data originally appeared in Poliakov and Wulf (eds), Das Dritte Reich und die Juden: Documente und Aufsatze Berlin: Arani Verlag, 1955).